I have cruised once before, same ship, same itinerary, in November 2005 over Thanksgiving week. That cruise I was part of a group of 17, including my six crazy sisters.
This time there were just two of us cruising together, me, 44, and DH, 46, which made for a different experience than cruising as part of a large group.
Saturday September 30, 2006 Pre-cruise in Galveston
Driving from our home in Houston, we arrived in Galveston at the Hawthorn Suites/Victorian Resort on Seawall Boulevard at about 1:00 in the afternoon. Though official check-in time was not until 4:00, as promised we were able to check in upon arrival since our room was ready by then.
This hotel offers free breakfast and free cruise parking. It also offers a shuttle t/f the pier for $25 for two, each way, but we opted for a cab that ended up being $20 each way including tip.
We booked a condo that sleeps six, two in the bedroom, two in bunk beds in the hall, and two on the sleeper sofa in the living room. A complete kitchen was fully stocked with pots & pans, dishes, tableware, etc. Can't tell you how the appliances worked, though I was on vacation no cooking for me!
I will say that this unit would be ideal for a family vacationing in Galveston, even on a tight budget, due to the ability to do meal prep in the room. It is just across the street from the beach, too. Great location!
Had lunch at McAllister's Deli, new to Galveston, though I was told they are an established chain with locations elsewhere. Good, fresh sandwiches, hearty chili, and yummy stuffed baked potatoes are the items DH and I enjoyed. They are located on Seawall Boulevard.
Spent some time swimming in the hotel pool (smallish, but clean and not at all crowded). After that we made a trip to the local WalMart to pick up a few last minute things,
We had plans to meet up with fellow Roll Call members at 7:30 at The Spot Restaurant and Tiki Bar, also on Seawall Boulevard. A couple of Roll Call members did meet us as scheduled along with their families (Hi Debbie, Hi Geep!) Thoroughly enjoyed another of The Spot's delish burgers, but too full to sample any of their great sounding desserts.
Made it back to the hotel around 9:15 or so, time for one more quick dip in the pool before a late night walk on the beach. Back to the hotel to try to sleep, though eager anticipation of our imminent cruise made it difficult to drift off!
We were happy with the Hawthorn as our choice of lodging, with one exception. The breakfast offered was quite disappointing. The scrambled eggs I would term more appropriately as egg soup they were so undercooked. The only bread offered, plain white for toasting, ran out before we reached that spot in the line. They had sausage links, but again ran out before we got to them. This was more than an hour before breakfast was scheduled to end. We did linger for about 10 minutes, but nothing was refilled, even after the dwindling offerings were brought to the attention of the staff. Also, DH said the coffee was not good at all, and he is far from picky. So much for free breakfast&we got what we paid for!
So we made our way back up to the room to pack, and called a cab. We waited no more than ten minutes at most before our taxi arrived and had an efficient and friendly driver to take us to the ship. (Thanks, Glen!)
We arrived at the port at about 11:00 and got in the lengthy line to get our S&S cards. I was using a cane as a result of tearing ligaments in my right foot a couple of weeks prior. A Carnival staff member noticed this and, much to my delight, whisked me and DH out of the long main line and directed us to the very short VIP S&S line. Just took a couple of minutes and we had our S&S cards in hand, he a newbie with the red, white and blue card and me with the gold past guest version.
We were then directed to a group of seats to wait until embarkation began. We were the first group on after the wedding party and the wheelchair folks. Walked across the gangway and boarded the ship at about 11:50.
Went to see if we could drop our carry-on bags in the room, but the doors were still closed so we hightailed it up to the Lido and grabbed some lunch. DH had the Reuben and liked it fine. I opted for a hot dog and French fries&yummy! Followed those up with the first of several ice cream cones that we enjoyed throughout the week.
Then it was back up to our room to stow our carry-on bags, by now it was about 1:00. We were able to access our room, balcony stateroom #7347. We met our room steward, Marian, who heartily welcomed us aboard and offered his assistance in any way. Nice, friendly young man.
We stashed the bags and made our way back up to the Lido and ordered the first DOD of the cruise, umbrella and all. Life is good!
After enjoying our drinks on deck, we made our way to the Renoir to talk to Drago, the Maitre D, about switching our dining assignment from early to the late slot we had requested. He acquiesced immediately and we were switched to 8:30 in the Renoir beginning that first night. Ended up with great tablemates, but otherwise regretted changing to the later time. As we discovered, having dinner that late left us too tired to enjoy after dinner activities and shows&time marches on guess we are getting old!
We went to the internet cafe to purchase a block of minutes, but could not log on successfully to do so, and there was no staff present to assist us. Knowing it would soon be time for the muster drill, we were heading towards our room to get the life jackets when I spotted a beautiful blonde in a big white gown on the third floor in the atrium. It was Aleah, from our Roll Call. I made my way through the surrounding crowd to give her a quick hug and to tell her how lovely she looked on her big day. I know she was busy with family and friends and therefore kept my interaction with her quite brief. I was happy to have the opportunity to see her in her wedding dress, up close, and to wish her and her new husband well in their new married life. (I am just a sentimental romantic at heart.)
Okay, off to the stateroom (with a side stop at the atrium bar for a second DOD) to get out those life vests. We enjoyed our drinks out on our balcony while awaiting the call for the drill, then slowly made our way to the muster station after the second call. Perfect timing&we were near enough to the front to be some of the first to exit, but we got there before they started paging absent guests. The whole drill lasted no more than 15-20 minutes; simple and painless, a necessary chore completed.
Unfortunately, by the time they released us from the drill, sailaway had already commenced. Aargh!
We had a Roll Call meeting planned for just after the muster drill on the Lido aft, in the Skypool/Bar area. Several Roll Call members met us there, and we chatted briefly. Nice to put some faces with those screen names we go by.
After the Roll Call meeting we headed back to the internet cafe and this time we were able to successfully purchase our package of minutes: 100 minutes for $55.00 plus a one time $3.95 access fee. We were able to use wireless from our cabin, but we heard from a fellow CC'er that they were not able to get a usable signal from their stateroom. They had to use their minutes by going to the cafe. The service was painfully slow to connect, in our stateroom or the cafe. Kudos to those CC'ers who have done the Live from the Ship posts all throughout their cruise thanks for spending the money, but especially the time, to do so!
Once we had our internet service established, we went back to our cabin to see if our checked luggage had arrived. Along with our suitcases, we had checked a 12 pack of Coca-Cola cans. All of our luggage was indeed waiting for us when we got to our stateroom, except the Cokes. I'll guess it was around 5:30 by then. We finished unpacking and headed out to explore the ship, since DH had never been on the Conquest, or any other cruise ship, for that matter. Enjoyed a couple more drinks as we made our way throughout the ship's public areas, stopping to enjoy the sunset from one of the outer decks. Lovely.
Back to our cabin to prepare for dinner in the Renoir, by now it was around 7:30. Still no Cokes.
At dinner, we had the pleasure of meeting our waitstaff, Marianna from Slovakia and Sarapee from Thailand? (Sorry, Sarapee, can't remember for sure.) Marianna was very friendly and talkative, as well as quite attentive to our needs. Sarapee was also friendly and helpful, in spite of seeming a bit shy. We felt very fortunate that these two ladies were serving the table to which we had been assigned.
We were assigned to an eight topper round table on the second floor. That first night we met three of our tablemates, a fun young couple, Nick and Rebecca, and Rebecca's mother. We really enjoyed visiting with them throughout the week.
After dinner we returned to our room to freshen up before going out to hit a show or two. Yeah right. A few minutes relaxing on the balcony and it was as if we had been sung an enchanting lullaby&we were all but nodding off! We decided to call it a night.
I want to mention that when we got back to our cabin after dinner, our Cokes had been delivered&well, 8 out of the 12 cans anyway. At least we were left with some of them, so thank you, Soda Thief...I guess.
Part Two Fun Days at Sea!
As usual, I was up before dawn, while DH enjoyed the sleeping in that is a very important part of a vacation to him. Me, I don't want to miss those sunrises! After watching the night sky slowly transform itself as it changed from purple and lavender to lustrous pinks and golds, the beautiful turquoise of the morning sky broke through. Nothing compares to the beauty Mother Nature can offer.
Following the breathtaking sunrise, I slipped quietly out of the cabin, so as not to awaken DH, and made my way up to the Lido Deck to have a cup of coffee while listening to the sound of the water as we cruised toward Jamaica. After allowing DH ample time to sleep, I returned to the cabin. Good DW that I am, I of course stopped for a hot fresh cup of coffee to offer him as he awakened.
We both showered and readied for the day before heading back up to the Lido to enjoy our first breakfast on the ship. I had very much enjoyed the omelets on my previous cruise, and was quite pleased to see that the same gentleman was preparing omelets on this cruise. When my turn came, I ordered my standard ham & cheese omelet, and mentioned how much I had enjoyed those that he had prepared for me last November. Much to my surprise, he smile, welcomed me back, then asked where all my crazy sisters were!
Now, this man had probably served thousands of passengers in the 10+ months that had passed since my first cruise. Amazing that he remembered me at all, much less that I had been traveling with my sisters! I saw him several times this cruise, both working the omelet station as well as other positions on the Lido, including the grill. Unfailingly friendly, always a welcoming smile! I am terribly embarrassed that I cannot recall his name, because he so deserves a special mention on the comment cards!
After breakfast, we went to the casino to make a few donations, as well as to sign up for the first of the two slot tournaments scheduled for the week. DH had some fun at the slots while I played roulette. He came away up $15, I was down $25 (we are such high rollers¬!)
Hit the Lido for lunch (and a couple of drinks!) Then we returned to the stateroom to look through the Capers while listening to some of our cruise CD's out on the balcony. We were having a great time relaxing when we noticed that the ship was turning around to head due north, right there in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico. Soon we could hear the sound of a helicopter and a small aircraft then we could see the Coast Guard copter and its chaperone Coast Guard jet circling the ship, several times. After that we could still hear the helicopter, but could no longer see either it or the jet.
By this time our drinks needed refreshing, so up to Lido we went, only to find what seemed like half the pax on the ship out there, watching a medical evacuation take place. DH snapped a couple of photos which are in the thread titled Medical Evacuation Helicopter Photos from the Conquest Oct 01 2006 Sailing on the Carnival board. It was quite interesting to witness. A big cheer went up from the crowd when the patient was successfully aboard the helicopter. Our thoughts and prayers are with her and her traveling companions.
Later that afternoon, the Captain made a PA announcement that we would be arriving late in Montego Bay on Wednesday, due to turning around and slowing down for the medivac. (We had to head north in order to get in helicopter range from the coast.) A small price to pay to enable a fellow passenger to receive much needed medical treatment. I will take this opportunity to remind folks that trip insurance can prevent you from footing the very expensive bill for such a medical evacuation.
With the excitement over, we returned to our room to freshen up a bit, then decided to see what the onboard shops had to offer. We found competitive prices on liquor, and a three liter bottle of Crown Royal caught our eye as a possible Christmas gift for our DSIL. Made no purchases this day; just browsed to see what was available. We noticed several items with Caribbean printed on them&had to laugh at the misspelling.
After touring the shops, we enjoyed a few drinks up on deck near the pool, accompanied by the live reggae band. The music, the sound of the waves, the blue water, sun shining I think this is when DH really began to relax and let go. So much so that he decided a nap was in order, so up to the cabin we went. He took a trip to the Land of Nod, while I grabbed a book and headed out to the balcony to lounge while reading. Balconies are worth every penny!
We roused ourselves in time to prepare for dinner, the first of two Formal nights. I went all out with a full length silver and black evening gown. DH looked so handsome in a dark suit and tie, my heart just melted all over again! (This after 26+ years together.)
We left our stateroom early, in plenty of time to hit several photo stations, as well as to people watch all our fellow pax in their formal finery. Nearly everyone was dressed very nicely; it was so enjoyable to see families and couples dressed to the nines for a special evening I especially loved seeing the little ones all dressed up!
After stopping for several photo opportunities, it was time for dinner. Marianna and Sarapee again welcomed us with warm smiles before taking our orders. Prime Rib for me, well done as I prefer mmmm!
We intended to enjoy some night life after dinner, but once again, it did not happen. Must be something about the swaying of the ship, combined with a days worth of libations we just didn't want to go back out after returning to our cabin. Instead we spent a romantic evening listening to some great CD's that our DD burned for the cruise, with the ocean sounds in the background as we relaxed on our balcony.
I believe that this was the night we first ordered room service...my turkey sandwich was just right for a late night snack!
We talked and enjoyed our favorite tunes late into the evening, star-gazing and holding hands. We felt almost like teenagers again as we headed off to bed!
Did I mention that balconies are worth every penny?
Tuesday I was again up before the sun. This time I tiptoed out of the room as DH slumbered on. Up to Lido for some hot chocolate and a muffin, then over to a window table to watch the sky gain its morning brightness. So quiet and peaceful at that early hour!
At around 8:00 or so I returned to our cabin, DH still snoring away. I enjoyed a hot shower, then called room service and ordered a carafe of coffee for DH and I to enjoy on the balcony. We took our time getting ready for the day dontcha love vacation?
We again chose to breakfast at the buffet. DH opted for the French toast coupled with link sausage and some fresh fruit, which he thoroughly enjoyed. I had another ham & cheese omelet along with a side of excellent grits...creamy, smooth, and hot.
I will take this time to mention that the grits stay pleasantly hot much longer if you use one of the Lido Deck's plastic drinking glasses or coffee cups for them rather than a plate or one of those shallow bowls available in the buffet line. Might not be as proper etiquette-wise, but they just cool off too fast otherwise, because so much of the surface is exposed to that cold AC in the buffet area. Every time I served them to myself this way, at least one or two passengers behind me in line commented that it was a good idea and did likewise.
After breakfast, we made a point of going to the library so that I could sign the Cruise Critic log book (Oh, wait was that today or Monday? Eh, it matters not!) Anyway, I signed the log book, and we checked out a board game while we were there. Had to sign a receipt acknowledging that the game would be returned Saturday during Library hours or we would be charged $25. No problem.
We agreed it was time for a drink or two; I chose a raspberry daiquiri and he a frozen pi?a colada. We took a long walk around the outer decks of the ship, enjoying the vivid blue waters that are such a sharp contrast to the muddy look of the Gulf in the Galveston area. I had enjoyed seeing schools of flying fish skipping across the waters on my previous cruise, and hoped to spot some this day, but to no avail. Still had a lovely time strolling with my DH, hair blowing in the wind. We made some precious deposits in our bank of pleasant memories that morning.
After reading about (and seeing scrumptious-looking pictures of) the fish & chips on CC, I wanted to visit the seafood venue, Su Mer. (I had missed out last year.) For those who want to try it, it is just upstairs from the Cezanne (buffet restaurant) on the Lido. You will know when you are headed up the correct staircase; well, your nose will know! (It is seafood, after all!)
The fish & chips did not disappoint; the fish filets were hot, crispy, not greasy tasting and had a light non-fishy flavor. Yum! DH had the fried oysters, which he enjoyed, and the bouillabaisse, which was only so-so with him until he found the scallops near the bottom of the bowl. They apparently redeemed the flavor, which until that point he found to be quite fishy and overly spicy. I will note that he likes very spicy food, even when it makes him break a sweat, but he commented that the spiciness just overpowered the other flavors until he got to the scallops.
After lunch, we returned to the casino, as it was now the time we had chosen for our spot in the slot tournament. Neither of us was a finalist, but because I chose to machines right next to one another, we had fun cheering each other on anyway. It was the first slot tournament in which either of us had participated, and enjoyable enough that we decided to enter the second tournament, to be held on Saturday.
DH and I then decided to attend the Afternoon Tea, which I had not previously experienced. It was a very pleasant affair. White-gloved servers brought an array of teas around from which passengers could choose. They also brought a variety of pastries and light desserts for our enjoyment. A classical trio played lightly in the background, adding to the relaxing ambience. A very nice interlude, and one that I may well not have tried were it not for the recommendation of a fellow CC'er in several of her posts. Thanks, Cotton!
We had intended to check out some of the daily activities such as Trivia or Bingo, but following Afternoon Tea, we were so relaxed that we decided it was naptime. DH napped in the cabin, while I chose to lounge on the balcony, drifting off to the sounds of the waves lapping at the sides of the ship. We did make it to the Renoir to join our tablemates for dinner again, but I do not recall what we ordered this night.
We were bound and determined to stay out after dinner this time, and did not return to the cabin following dinner. Instead, we decided to check out Damian in the piano bar. Some of you may have read some controversial reviews about Damian; there was mention of him demanding $$ to play certain tired songs, and of anti-American comments made by him. Neither happened while we were there. He was willingly, even enthusiastically, taking requests from guests. No anti-anything comments, except about how early he had to get up the next morning.
And let me tell you, that Damian can really play that piano! He truly is gifted with amazing talent. If you get a chance to see him perform, I highly recommend it! Listening to him play and singing along was a great way to end our second full day at sea.
A bit tipsy, off we went to our stateroom. As we snuggled in bed, we talked about our upcoming day in Jamaica and how fortunate we were to be able to experience all that this cruise had offered so far.
It was lightly raining when I awoke before sunrise. It didn't last long; I went up to the Lido at about 6:30 to grab a cup of java and by the time I returned the rain had stopped. As the sun rose in the sky I sipped my coffee and luxuriated in the view of my surroundings. Beautiful turquoise waters against a backdrop of lush green mountains, gorgeous pink and lavender tinted clouds, my DH slumbering peacefully a few feet away&pure Heaven! But DH wasn't going to sleep for long we were almost to Jamaica!
After DH woke and showered, as he was dressing, I stepped back out on the balcony and noticed a little gift from Mother Nature. A beautiful rainbow! I told DH to grab the camera and he quickly snapped a photo. A pretty picture, but it did not do justice to the gorgeous hues of that rainbow!
By now it must have been about 7:30, and we could see the land in the distance coming ever closer. Though the captain had advised us on Monday that we would arrive late in Jamaica due to the helicopter evacuation that had taken place, we apparently made up the time, as we were nearing the Jamaican coast by then and were not scheduled to dock until 8:00. My excitement grew as I spotted the twin bright yellow buildings in the distance that are part of the Sunset Beach resort! I was a bit disappointed that we docked facing the opposite way than we had last year, meaning we would have to enjoy from the public decks the humorous show put on by drunken, late returning pax as they stumbled back onto the ship. Not to be missed!
We were not in a big hurry since the excursion we had planned, an all-inclusive day at Sunset Beach, did not have specific start or stop times. We grabbed a light breakfast from the buffet before walking off the ship. It was so wonderful to return to Montego Bay I just loved it last year. We shared a cab with a family who wanted to go shopping on their own; the driver first dropped us off at Sunset Beach before continuing on with them. The fare was $2 per person; the transportation was a late model, clean, air conditioned JUTA mini-van. The trip from the port to the resort was no more than five minutes.
We arrived around 10:00 and surrendered our S&S cards and paid the $40 pp for the day pass. For those unfamiliar with Sunset Beach, they offer this price to cruise ship passengers ($20 for children), and it is truly an all-inclusive deal. The $40 pp covers all the food you can eat, including a sit down restaurant where street clothes are required, as well as a buffet and a grill area where swimsuits and shorts are acceptable attire. All your drinks, alcoholic or otherwise, are also included, as is access to all non-motorized water sports equipment such as snorkel gear, kayaks, and paddleboats.
The day pass also provides access to three swimming pools, the waterpark on premises, their hot tubs, pool tables, and casino. For the self-confident or daring among you, there is also a tops optional and a clothing prohibited beach for guests.
Sunset Beach has proven to be an unbeatable deal both times that I have visited. I should also mention that, being a private resort, SB does not allow vendors (of legal or illegal goods) or other merchants to enter. This allows guests to enjoy their day without constant offers of marijuana, hair-braiding, etc.
We ordered drinks from the beautiful, open-air lobby bar that is surrounded with colorful flowers and filled with bird songs. DH had his first Red Stripe and I requested a strawberry daiquiri. Drinks in hand, we strolled down the beach that is located to the left as you leave the lobby area. We claimed a couple of the blue and white striped lounge chairs and moved them into the shallow waters at the edge of the sandy area. We sipped our drinks and enjoyed the sunshine for a little while. Watched as a family group frolicked nearby in the water and saw the Dad find a living starfish, much to the delight of his young daughters. At some point we meandered up to the nearby bar for drink replenishment, of course.
We then went exploring and decided to try out the lazy river at the waterpark. Although Sunset Beach does not have lockers for guests per se, upon asking the staff, we were cheerfully provided a secure place to leave our beach bag full of belongings. The bag was placed in a room between the restrooms that have the showers, again to the left as you leave the lobby area. Only staff members have access to this room, and our things were returned to us just as we had left them when we retrieved them after playing at the waterpark.
We spent most of our time floating on the lazy river in oversized inner tubes, drinks in hand. The sky began to cloud up again, but we hardly noticed. It was such a relaxing way to spend some rare leisure time with my DH, and remains one of the best memories I have of this cruise. I wish I was there with him right now. Sigh.
By now it had been a while since our breakfast on the ship, and the aroma of grilled chicken and other enticing scents were drifting our way from the food areas we had passed as we walked to the waterpark. I enjoyed a simple grilled cheese sandwich and some delicious French fries. My DH, who has a tremendously more adventurous palate than I, sampled many of the different offerings at the buffet, including of course some jerk chicken and pork. He also had a meat patty (looked like a meat-filled turnover to us) from the grill that he enjoyed.
As we were enjoying our late lunch (it was around 2:30 at this point) the skies opened up again and it rained fairly heavily for about 20 or 30 minutes. What to do but have another drink? After the rain let up, we decided our tired selves should head back to the ship, so we reclaimed our beach bag and retrieved our S&S cards in exchange for the wrist bands that identified us as all-inclusive day pass holders. I was sad to be leaving Sunset Beach and all the warm, friendly people who provided such excellent service to us.
I would like to make a comment here regarding tipping at Sunset Beach. It is officially not allowed. However, the U.S. dollar has such a strong value to the Jamaican residents and they work so hard that we tipped anyway. If offered openly, tips will be refused. If you wish to recognize the service of staff members who assist you, simply fold the bill(s) into a small square, then palm the money and pass it to the person as you shake their hand and thank them. It will not be expected, but in our case was gratefully received, without exception. You should have seen the reaction of the pretty young lady who served me at the grill I swear, her big dark eyes filled with tears of gratitude when I thanked/tipped her!
Okay, off my soapbox about tipping.
We hailed a cab from Sunset Beach for the short return trip to the ship; again a five minute ride that cost $2 pp plus tip. We made a quick stop in a gift shop at the port so DH could pick up a ball cap for his collection, then we reboarded. I remembered fondly from my last visit to Montego Bay how school children in uniform performed in a marching band as passengers returned to the ship, but they were not there when we got back aboard.
We mad a quick side trip to our cabin to drop off our beach bag, then hit the bar on the Lido for a couple of frozen frou-frous before staking out a table with a view of the port and gangway. Much to my delight, shortly thereafter the schoolchildren arrived and began the serenade I had hoped to see as I had last visit.
During that visit, we had been able to enjoy the children playing their music from the comfort of our balcony, but the ship docked facing the opposite direction this time. I was telling my DH how pax had used empty water bottles, placing rolled up currency inside and tossing the bottles from their balconies to the children below, to tip them. We were tempted to do the same this day, but the public decks were just too far above the ground to safely do so. My DH and I both thought the kids deserved tips so much, that we actually exited the ship just to add to their coffers. A little of our money can go such a long way in countries like Jamaica.
We returned to the ship and were pleased to see the table we had claimed with the view of the port was still unoccupied, so we settled in for the I got way too drunk and now I am really late performances of the last of the returning passengers. Always entertaining!
The ship set sail as scheduled at 5:30, and we watched Jamaica slip slowly into the distance as we headed out to sea. A thoroughly enjoyable day in a beautiful country that we won't soon forget!
After returning to our cabin and showering off all the layers of sunscreen we had applied throughout the day, we dressed for dinner, then headed for the casino. DH hit the slots again and I settled in at one of the roulette tables. This time DH lost $20 and I was up $40 or so by the time we decided to call it quits in the casino for the evening. We enjoyed a drink at the atrium bar and another on our balcony, then it was time for another pleasant meal in the Renoir.
We left the dining room, full and feeling pampered as usual, and decided to seek out Blood Power, an awesome band that plays, and plays very well, a hugely diverse selection of covers. The band includes three brothers, and all the members contribute to the excellent performance with their amazing talent! If you enjoy rock music at all, you absolutely must see this band if you get the chance! Oh, if I were single and (much) younger, a groupie at sea I would be!
Following Blood Power's invigorating performance, we stopped off for a nightcap before returning to our cabin. (I had a great dirty martini.) It was a long, full day, and sleep came easily.
Thursday Georgetown, Grand Cayman!
You can probably guess that I arose before my DH in order to witness another Caribbean sunrise spectacular as ever! I was again on our balcony, and after the dark sky gave way to the sun's light, I settled back with a book while DH snoozed for a while longer.
When I saw him stirring, I called room service for coffee. Just as I hung up the phone, we heard a sort of booming sound outside. We gave each other a What was that? look. Then we heard another boom, this time sounding louder and closer by. Out to the balcony I went to investigate, in time to see a colorful pirate ship passing a very short distance from the ship, just off our balcony. I told DH to grab the camera, and he made it out in time to snap a couple of very good photos of it. (I believe it was a pirate boat excursion getting underway.)
That was a cool way to start our day in Grand Cayman! We spent some time enjoying our coffee on the balcony while reviewing all the digital photos we had taken thus far.
We were booked for a private snorkel/stingray excursion with Captain Marvin's, set to begin at 11:15; we were advised to arrive at the Captain Marvin's office in the Waterfront Centre at 10:45, so we had a leisurely breakfast on the ship and still had time to spare before catching a tender ashore.
At about 9:45, so we headed up to the room, grabbed our beach bag and snorkel stuff, and headed down to catch a tender ashore. Things moved quickly and soon we were off the tender and making the short walk (a couple of blocks) to the CM office.
I need to mention here that on our cruise last year, we had booked with Captain Marvin's but something went wrong and my sisters and I were left stranded, along with other guests, and never got to do the excursion. I won't go into further detail here, but those interested can read all about it in the review I wrote covering the Conquest Thanksgiving week 2005 cruise, previously published here in the Reviews section of CC.
I did notify Captain Marvin's what happened after returning home last year, and they responded quickly and most apologetically with an offer for 50% off a future excursion, which they honored without hesitation when I called to book them this year.
When we arrived at the Captain Marvin's office and gave our names to the young ladies at the front, their eyes lit up and one of them came forward and said, You are Miss Patty? The owner would like to meet you. They called the owner, Chris, from the back and he met us with warm handshakes and profuse apologies about last year's excursion-gone-wrong.
I told Chris that I come from a background of running a small family business, that I understood that sometimes things can and do go wrong that are not under the control of those running the business, and that I was happy to try Captain Marvin's again for that reason. He seemed sincerely grateful for the understanding, and thanked us several times.
I inquired who would be piloting the boat for our excursion, and was delighted to learn that it would be the original, 90 year old Captain Marvin himself! I actually did a little happy dance when they told me, and the girls who had greeted us when we arrived were quite amused.
By now it was time to board the bus for the short ride to the dock where we would find our excursion boat, the Miss Jackie, waiting. There were 22 aboard as we set out for the first stop, to snorkel. The crew was very helpful in explaining what to expect and adeptly assisted those who needed help donning the snorkel equipment as we headed to the targeted area. There was also a videographer aboard, who gave a short description of what he would be recording and how we could obtain a DVD later if we so desired.
The boat slowed to a stop, the crew anchored us down, and at long last it was time to snorkel! One by one, the excursion guests slipped from the side of the boat into the clear azure waters of the Caribbean. DH and I went in hand in hand, so excited to be sharing this experience with one another. I will say that I was a bit out of my comfort zone. It was my first time snorkeling (other than a practice run pre-cruise in a swimming pool), though he had snorkeled as a small child a few times in lakes in Washington state.
It was a new and amazing experience for both of us! The vivid hues of the fish were simply magnificent we were swimming amongst some of the most vibrant and beautifully-colored creatures one could imagine! Saffron yellow fish with black stripes, indigo ones with what looked like neon purple edging on their bodies and fins, coral of varying shades, stingrays undulating near the ocean floor. All suspended in the crystal turquoise waters of the Caribbean. It was like nothing we had ever seen before; just amazing and truly unforgettable.
As we climbed back up onto the boat, we and the other guests were talking about the beauty we had experienced. From children to seniors, all were excitedly exclaiming about and describing what they had seen. And to think, this was only half of the excursion!
Soon enough, the motor started up again and the Miss Jackie was headed to the stingray sandbar. It was raining as we made our way there, but Mother Nature cooperated and the showers let up just as we arrived at the sandbar.
The crew again took the time to thoroughly explain what to expect and how to handle both ourselves and the stingrays. Okay, so now it was time to swim with those stingrays. If I was a bit out of my comfort zone snorkeling with the pretty fish, I was WAY outside my comfort zone now!
Once again, we donned our snorkel masks and tubes, then over the side of the boat we went. I was holding on to DH for dear life at this point and not feeling very confident at all. We swam the few feet to the sandbar, where it was plenty shallow enough to stand comfortably. We could see the stingrays all around, and they seemed to move in slow motion as they glided toward us. I couldn't help myself I became one of those screaming women that are so fun to ridicule. The DVD will certainly be interesting!
I was finally able to calm down a bit after a couple of minutes, though at first it took a conscious effort to not recoil as the creatures surrounded me and caressed my legs. The longer I was in the water with the stingrays, the less eerie they seemed. I eventually got brave enough to pet and kiss one that was being held by a crew member, and even encouraged a teen-aged girl in our tour group, who seemed very frightened, to do the same. They really are gentle creatures, and the ones in that area are very used to humans being in the water with and feeding them.
Swimming and interacting with the stingrays was a thrilling and unique experience for this city girl, and I am glad I dared to go outside that comfort zone of mine to do so. It is a memory that I am sure will last a lifetime. I am so glad I gave Captain Marvin's another chance!
On the return trip to the dock, the rain began again in earnest, complete with thunder and lightning. But, as tropical rainstorms do, it ended as quickly as it had begun, and when we were getting off the boat it was just lightly sprinkling. By the time the bus returned us to the Waterfront Centre, the rain had stopped completely and the sun was brightly shining. On our way back to catch the tender, we stopped in and browsed at a few shops. As reported here on CC, the prices were definitely not for bargain-hunters. We returned to the ship without making a purchase.
We stashed our snorkel equipment back in the cabin and headed up for some lunch. Made a brief stop in the casino, then it was up to the cabin to shower and nap before getting ready for dinner, the second Formal Night.
This night I chose to wear one of my favorites that I had also worn on last year's cruise. It was a vintage 40's knee length strapless cocktail dress in sparkling green and black. DH again donned a dark suit and tie. One of the formal photos we posed for turned out to be the best picture taken of the two of us in years! DH always seems to get that deer in headlights look in posed photos, no matter how hard he tries to just smile. I don't know how he did it, but the photographer caught DH with a genuine-looking smile on his face. It is a fabulous shot!
I agree with others that there are a lot of photo ops available on the ship, especially on formal nights. If they are annoying to you, simply don't get in line for them pass them by. But for those of us who find it difficult, if not impossible, to drag our mates to a portrait studio for formal pics, they make for great opportunities. The more you pose for, the bigger your selection and the better your chance for that one outstanding photo. We are so glad we took the time stop for photos at the various backgrounds! (I am sure Carnival is too!)
Dinner this night was delicious as usual&I chose the filet mignon and it did not disappoint. Following the fine meal, we headed off to see Blood Power again, and had a rockin good time, me sipping dirty martinis, he downing copious amounts of rum & Coke, and listening to the band's awesome selections. We danced, drank, and just generally had a good old time until Blood Power retired for the evening.
By then, DH's rum consumption had gotten the best of him, so I went with him to the cabin and tucked him into bed before heading out on my own to catch a bit of Damian in the piano bar. Fascinating to watch his fingers flying up and down the black and white keys in perfect rhythm as he banters with the guests. He had several Stoli on the rocks cocktails lined up waiting for him, bought by admiring patrons. I wouldn't even be able to talk straight after downing so much liquor, let alone play an instrument perfectly while singing along. Damian&keep it up&you are awesome! Here's to Sweet Miller Lite!
First Blood Power, then Damian what a way to end an already full and memorable day. As I headed back to our stateroom, I remember feeling very glad that we did not have an excursion planned for the following day so I could sleep in.
I wakened before dawn as usual, rousing myself so as not to miss the sunrise over Mexico. I knew DH would be sleeping in for sure (or should I say sleeping off the night before), so I went up and got some coffee to bring with me out on the balcony. But after stepping out the balcony door on this morning, I gazed up at a sky that was quite overcast. The sunrise was, shall I say, less than spectacular, though the early morning still peaceful and quiet as I sipped the steaming coffee.
Then the tenders started loading pax directly below our cabin a few decks down. I watched from above for a few minutes, disappointed. We had been hoping to dock in Cozumel, since the Punta Langosta Pier had reopened the previous week, but for some reason we were still required to tender. (I have since read that the sailing just after ours was able to dock. Darn, missed it by that much!)
I took a leisurely shower, then killed some time reading and just relaxing on the balcony, until DH wakened. I went over the shopping info I had printed out about Cozumel while he showered and dressed.
They were still announcing tender sticker numbers as we went to breakfast at about 10:30. By 11:00 we had finished eating and were ready to go ashore. The only thing we had planned for our stop in Cozumel was to shop, shop, shop&then shop some more. We have a large extended family on both sides, and many of our relatives will be receiving Christmas gifts this year that were purchased in Mexico.
The tender we boarded was large and comfortable, complete with upholstered seats, air conditioning, and a snack bar. Good thing those tenders are comfortable, since they take more than 30 minutes to load! It began to rain while the tender passengers were still boarding, and didn't let up at all until just before we went ashore. Then it eased to a light drizzle, and the sun broke through a few minutes later.
We had to dodge a few puddles here and there, but the skies cooperated as we went on our gift-buying venture and the rain held off. DH stood back and let me handle the bargaining; he really dislikes the process. Me? I love the challenge! We chose quite a few items over the next several hours, including clothing, carved figurines, pottery, hand-painted crafts, and jewelry.
My favorite purchases were three different and adorable embroidered dresses in the tiniest sizes available for our first grandchild, due five weeks after we sailed from Galveston. Those little dresses are so precious, and I cannot wait to see our darling Rebekka wearing them. This Grandma-to-be had so much fun shopping for her!
I'm sure you have heard the saying shop til you drop. Well, it was about 2:30 when we decided that we had shopped enough and were ready to drop. And hungry too. So we headed back to near where the tender line would be, and chose an open air restaurant for lunch. I had quesadillas which were simple and tasty, DH opted for a full meal with a little of everything included. He had a couple of Dos XX, I stuck with good old agua myself. We people-watched, enjoyed the good food, and were serenaded by strolling mariachis. It was a thoroughly enjoyable and relaxing way to rest up our tired selves after all that haranguing with merchants.
After the necessary waits, first in line, then on the tender, then to reboard the ship, it was about 4:00. We returned to our room laden with our gift purchases, dropping them off gratefully.
Here it was, Friday, and we had not yet taken advantage of the ship's pools or hot tubs. We decided a dip was just the thing we needed to refresh ourselves. Well, that and a couple of frozen frou-frou drinks! We headed to the Skypool, aft, but found ourselves a bit chilly there so we moved to the hot tub. There were three other couples in there, and we enjoyed chatting with them as we soaked in the warm, gurgling water. We agreed that this was something we should have made more use of. Hmm good to know for our next cruise!
We returned to the stateroom to change, then we packed away our Cozumel purchases. DH wanted to attend the drawing in one of the onboard gift shops for a free watch, so we went down to be present for that. They of course were also promoting a big sale, and DH saw a watch set he just had to have, but it was a two-for deal that required two purchases to get the sale price. So we bought a ladies watch and jewelry set, too. What was it that PT Barnum said?
We took our newly acquired watches back to our room and packed them away, then got ready for dinner while listening to the trusty CD player. We stopped by the atrium bar for a pre-dinner cocktail and some more people-watching, before heading up to the Renoir to greet Marianna and Sarapee again.
This night two of our tablemates did not come to dinner. Their partners each explained to Marianna that they did not attend dinner because they were feeling under the weather. Marianna insisted that they order for their partners anyway; she would arrange for their meals to be ready for them to take to their cabin mates when they themselves had finished dining.
So, officially you cannot get dining room menu items from room service, but if you have as accommodating a server as we were lucky to have, you can bring food back to your cabin from the dining room. Marianna had two complete meals ready to go as promised, after dessert had been served. She really impressed me with her friendliness, professionalism, and unwavering attention to the service she provided each of us. I assure you she was glowingly noted on our comment cards.
Following dinner, I wanted only one thing&to go seek out Blood Power again! Once again, they provided a rockin good time and the hours flew past. By now, the bartender knew I liked my martinis filthy and that DH wanted rum & Coke, so we were never in want of a drink. The band was fabulous as always, and they just seemed to top themselves every time they started a new set. I know I am starting to sound like a broken record, but words really cannot adequately describe Blood Power's talent and stage presence I just love em!
It was only when the band bid the crowd good night that DH was successful in dragging me out of the lounge. A quick stop for a couple of slices of pizza and some ice cream, and we wearily but happily stumbled back to the cabin. One of the reasons cruising is so convenient no designated driver needed!
It had been a long day, shopping and walking in the Mexican sun, eating, drinking, and dancing to great music, enjoying the company of my DH. I was so tired, but it was that good kind of tired. I think I was asleep before I hit the pillow!
Final Fun Day at Sea
I was up before the sun as I always am, and this morning the sunrise was again glorious. I soaked in every minute of it, knowing (but trying not to think about it) that our cruise would be ending soon. With a sigh I left the balcony and went back into the cabin.
DH was still snoozing my books were finished what to do now? Hmm, the casino was open! Scribbled a little note letting DH know where I was headed, and off I went.
To the slots first, where I played on $30 for nearly an hour, ending up with $72, more than doubling my money. From there I headed to the roulette table. Should've stopped while I was ahead. I dwindled my $72 all the way down to $16 before I had the sense to walk away. Overall I was just $14 down, but I could've walked away $42 up. Hey, it sure was fun though!
I took my little $16 and returned to our stateroom, where DH was now awake and in the shower.
We ordered coffee and croissants from room service, and had one last relaxing morning on the balcony, just enjoying the movement and sounds of the beautiful blue waters beneath us. The sky was crystal clear and the world just seemed so peaceful&I wish I was there with my DH right now!
We planned our final day at sea as we readied for the day, then up to the Lido we went again. I want to take the omelet chef home with me tomorrow, I whispered to DH as I dove into another delicious breakfast. He just rolled his eyes and ate his French toast, LOL!
Once our tummies were full and our palates satisfied, we went down to Deck Five to do some onboard shopping. Stopping in the photo area first, we looked through the rest of our pictures and made our final purchases there. (No way was I going to fight the crowds in the photo area any later in the day, or worse yet, the morning of debarkation!)
Then to the shops we went. We picked up the three liter bottle of Crown Royal for DSIL and a pair of diamond earrings for me. After dropping off our purchases in the room (yes, they let us take the liquor with us) along with the photos, we headed out in search of libations&today I tried an Ultimate Suntan for the first time. It was tasty but after just one, I wanted something a little less sweet. DH got another pi?a colada, and we went for a leisurely walk on the upper decks.
By now the Library opening time was approaching, so we retrieved from our stateroom the board game we had checked out earlier in the week and headed down to turn it back in. The library was unlocked when we arrived, a few minutes ahead of the scheduled opening time, but there was no attendant or staff member present. The cabinet with the board games was also unlocked.
A few other passengers trickled in, also with items to return, and we all waited nearly 30 minutes past the slated opening time before a Carnival employee arrived. She made eye contact with no one, nor greeted anyone. She just headed to a spot on one of the couches in the corner and opened her laptop. Keep in mind the library is only open for one hour at a time and she arrived when that time was almost half gone.
We pax looked at one another, wondering if she was library staff or just an employee on her own time. Finally, I asked if she knew when a library attendant would arrive. Oh, that's me, she stated, before turning her attention back to her computer. I asked if I could turn in our checked out item to her, and she said, Just put it over there, gesturing to a table across the room. She never even looked up to see what item we were returning.
I have no idea how they can keep track of who must pay if an item is not returned. Any other passenger could have come in and taken the board game we put on the table. It was a weird, Twilight Zone kind of episode; we and the other pax were sort of scratching our heads at both the girl's indifference and the system for returning checked out items. It was just kind of strange. You can bet I double-checked our folio to confirm that we had not been charged for that darned game!
We were finally rid of the board game, but the dreary task of packing was still before us, and I wanted to get it out of the way so the remainder of the day would be free to enjoy. DH ordered us another round of drinks and we headed up to the cabin to start the job.
We made it as pleasant as we could; listening to the reggae sounds of Bob Marley reminded us of our beautiful day in Jamaica, floating on the lazy river at Sunset Beach. We were practically packing with one hand each as we drank and laughed, reliving the past week. As we put our snorkel equipment into our suitcases, Grand Cayman was the topic of happy discussion. Then out came all the cool and unique things we had chosen in Cozumel, and we relived the fun of that day as well.
Before we knew it, our luggage was packed and we were all through with the usually tiresome chore. I highly recommend packing together, reliving your cruise day by day, with music and drinks to accompany you. It made it virtually painless for us!
Well, gee, all that work made us hungry and thirsty, so we went up to Lido again for drink refills and some lunch. We hit Paul's Deli this time; he got another Reuben and I chose the Country Turkey Sandwich (at least I think that is what it was called). Anyway, it was good!
One of my crazy sisters had given us several rolls of nickels left from the cruise last November, to play the slots (thanks, Robbi!). We still had a couple of rolls left, so after lunch we hit the casino and dutifully fed them into the one-armed bandits, which of course lived up to their name and took all those nickels and kept em. At least we didn't have any heavy rolls of coins to tote home.
We still had over an hour to kill before our slated time in the slot tournament that afternoon, and decided to hit the hot tub one more time. So we headed up to our room to change into our bathing suits, but when we got there, the balcony beckoned we stayed out there instead, and enjoyed a drink or two, with the sound of the surf and the feel of the ocean breeze to accompany us. It was so serene and soothing! If you look up the phrase quality time in the dictionary, you just might find a photo of DH and me from that afternoon!
Before we knew it, it was time to return to the casino for the slot tournament. Again, we didn't make it to the finals, but we had just as much fun as we had the first time, sitting at machines side by side and rooting for one another. It was a blast!
We decided to attend the day's Art Auction. (Okay, I think this was Saturday, but I am not positive and I'll hear no mention of drinks having anything to do with my faulty memory LOL!) We had not previously attended one, so it was a new experience for us. We looked around for a staff member so we could ask some questions, but the only two we saw were surrounded by other pax six or eight deep, so we just took our seats and waited to see what happened.
Soon a person approached the microphone and addressed the audience. However, between his heavy South African accent and his constant referrals to the procedure used at previous auctions, we were just as in the dark after 20 minutes as we had been when he first started speaking. We gave up and left. It looked like it might have been fun if we had known what to expect or understood what to do. Oh well, so much for Art Auctions for us maybe next time. (Any excuse to cruise again!)
We headed back up to our cabin and ordered room service to tide us over until dinner. It arrived promptly, and after devouring scrumptious BLT's, we opted for a final nap at sea. He crashed on the bed, while I dozed on my beloved balcony one last time. I'm telling you, give up an excursion, don't spend as much shopping, save a little longer, do whatever you gotta do to have the extra $$ for a balcony cabin. It is so worth it!
After our lovely little napfest, we showered and got ready for our last dinner in the Renoir. I made sure I tucked thank you notes, complete with well-deserved extra gratuities, into my purse before taking my DH's arm and going to the dining room. There were Marianna and Sarapee, smiling as always, waiting to serve us one last time.
While we were enjoying our meal, the conversation turned to family, and I mentioned to Marianna that our first grandchild was due in just four weeks. In response, Marianna eagerly demonstrated to us how to fold a dinner napkin into the shape of a doll, and to use a spoon for the head. Very cute, and sure to be a hit with our little Rebekka when she is a toddler. This kind of personal service and attention made our dining experience truly unique and special throughout the week, and is one of several reasons that both Marianna and Sarapee were praised on the comment cards we turned in at the end of the cruise.
I should also mention that our bar server in the Renoir, Alena, was also outstanding in both service provided and pleasant demeanor. My dirty martinis got filthier by the night, (just how I like em!) and she was always ready to greet us with a smile. Yes, praise for Alena is also included on our cards.
As the meal came to a close, we exchanged emails with some of our tablemates so we could keep in touch. Then it was time to bid one another farewell. There were hugs and well wishes all around as we presented Marianna, Sarapee, and Alena with their well-earned thanks and gratuities. Those fine young women, so far from home and so hard working, yet still so upbeat, warm and friendly at every turn, truly helped to make this cruise the wonderful experience for us that it was. Thank you so much, ladies!
With the melancholy goodbyes behind us, there was only one place I wanted to go to get back into an upbeat mood. You guessed it we spent our last evening grooving once again to the music of Blood Power. They were great as always, all over the place with their show. At one point this night, the band members were all in the middle of the dance floor, laying down and looking up at the ceiling while jamming, and jamming hard, on their instruments. Amazing! I think one of the reasons they put on such a great show is that it is so evident that they enjoy being out there making music and getting the audience going. Rock on, Blood Power til we meet again!
We left the lounge, grabbed a couple of ice cream cones, and went for one last walk on deck. In the hectic pace of our daily lives, we just don't have much time to spend this way, with our attention only on each other. Arm in arm we gazed out at the reflection of the moon on the water, enjoying the feeling of just being together. It was a fabulous way to spend our last evening on the ship!
Sunday arrived, no matter how much I willed it to stay away, and our cruise drew to a close. I was, as always, awake at dawn, but somehow the sunrise in Galveston just did not hold the same allure for me as those of the previous week. Go figure.
Most of our luggage had been set out the night before, so after readying for the day, we took our carry-ons (but shouldn't they now be called carry-offs? hee hee!) and made our way up to the Lido deck for one last breakfast aboard the ship, at about 8:00. Of course, I had another ham & cheese omelet and some more grits! DH also had an omelet, with everything, and agreed that his was as delicious as I had been saying mine were all week.
Then it was time to play the waiting game, even though they had been calling two or three colors at a time. We reminisced about the fabulous week we had just shared. We waited. We people watched. We kept waiting. We ate ice cream cones (What?! Those darn machines were right there in our faces!) Waited some more. We spotted our dining room assistant, Sarapee, clearing tables, and chatted with her. Then we waited a little longer. Finally they called our color, at about 10:30, and it was time to leave the ship.
Embarkation (A+) Very organized and efficient. Carnival staff members were attentive and pleasant in assisting us and other passengers as we waited to board the ship. From arrival at the terminal at 11:00 a.m. to boarding the ship took less than an hour.
Bon Voyage Gifts (A) Two were ordered; one of the two orders was not correctly filled. A visit to the Purser's desk corrected this promptly.
Service (A) The vast majority of the service we experienced was nothing short of outstanding:
Our Room Steward, Marian, kept our room spotless, our cooler perennially full of ice, provided entertaining towel creations, and faithfully supplied our daily Capers and nightly chocolates. (A++)
Our servers in the Renoir dining room offered personalized attention, professional service, and a welcoming and pleasant atmosphere. Their menu selection recommendations were also much appreciated. (A++)
Other staff and crew members, from the Lido buffet, to the onboard shops, to casino, to the various lounges, were almost always unfailingly polite and friendly. (A+)
Purser's Desk: We visited the Purser's desk at least three times; once to correct a problem with a Bon Voyage gift order, the other times because our folio failed to correctly reflect onboard credit we had purchased prior to sailing. Contrary to many of the reports I have read here at CC, we were treated in a professional and helpful manner each time we dealt with staff at the Purser's Desk. Our issues were promptly and efficiently resolved. (A)
The one exception seemed to be the photo shop staff members. They did not seem to be as congenial, and came across as harried and even a bit irritated at times. Considering that the system for purchasing photos onboard is quite disorganized and is very frustrating for passengers, the negative attitude of the photo shop members is likely not a coincidence. Carnival, are you listening? (Yes, this observation is included in our comment cards to.) (C)
Buffet: We ate breakfast from the buffet daily. We found some of the selections to be adequate, but usually pretty good, and a few items were excellent, including the omelets. (B+) (omelets A++)
I am going to take a few moments here to address a comment/complaint I have read many time here on Cruise Critic, regarding the same items being offered day after day on the buffet at breakfast. You can have something different for breakfast every day if you just pick and choose.
Try pancakes and sausage one day; cereal, fruit, and yogurt the next; French toast and bacon the day after that; an omelet the next day you get the idea. Just because they offer the same things every day doesn't mean you need to choose them all every day!
Dining Room: The food in the dining room at supper was one of my DH's favorite things about this, his first cruise. He really liked the different choices, and the fact that he could order two entrees, appetizers, or desserts if he could not decide on just one. He liked all the selections he was served, but especially enjoyed the seafood dishes and the chocolate desserts. (A)
My favorite items in the dining room mirrored my choices from last year. The filet mignon, the chateaubriand, and the prime rib were outstanding. I also very much enjoyed the tomato soup (Cream of Vine-Ripened Tomato with a Touch of Gin), the French onion soup with the puff pastry crust, and the American navy bean soup. (A)
Grill: DH like the burgers; me not so much. Their hot dogs were excellent, plump and juicy. Grilled chicken breasts (ordered sans bun) were lean, moist and tasty. (B+)
Paul's Deli: DH ate their Reuben twice, and approved heartily both times. My turkey sandwich from the Deli was good, fresh, and filling. (B+)
Su Mer: The fish & chips, highly praised, and photographed here on CC, did not disappoint. Light, fresh, and crunchy. Fried oysters pleased DH; to him the bouillabaisse was overly seasoned and a bit too fishy tasting and the dish was only saved by the scallops he found hiding in the bottom. (B) (fish & chips A)
Room Service: Prompt every time we ordered. The coffee was hot each time when it arrived. BLT's and turkey sandwiches were as yummy as I remember from last year. (A)
Pizza: Certainly not the best we've ever had, but still very good and a more than adequate late night or early afternoon snack. (B)
We did not try PC Wok, the Sushi Bar, or The Point supper club.
Activities: We only participated in a few scheduled activities.
The slot tournaments were a lot of fun, made more so by Stewart, the Casino Host. (A-)
Afternoon Tea is definitely worth a visit. It is a nice relaxing break in an elegant atmosphere. (A)
We found the Art Auction to be a stifling bore (but we did not know what the heck to do in there.) (C-)
Damian, the Piano Bar entertainer: His talent is outstanding and entertaining. He sure can play a mean piano&just watching his fingers fly up and down the keyboards is amazing! If you ever have chance to see him perform, I recommend doing so. (A+)
Blood Power, rock band extraordinaire: If you have managed to read through this whole review without nodding off or giving up, you already know that I am a quite a Blood Power fan. These guys are just an incredibly talented group of young men. If you enjoy seeing extremely talented musicians performing in highly entertaining shows while obviously having a grand old time, you will absolutely love being in the audience at a Blood Power show I guarantee it! (A+++++) (We did not attend any other shows, so cannot comment on those.)
From when they called our tag color until we went through Customs assisted by a porter took about an hour. It took a few minutes to locate the five pieces of luggage we did not carry off the ship, as they were scattered about, but at least all were in one area of the terminal. Once through Customs, we easily hailed a cab just outside the terminal, and the cabbie had us back at the Hawthorn to retrieve our truck by 11:45 or so.
The noon sun was overhead as we headed back toward Houston. I looked over my shoulder and longingly caught one last glimpse of the lovely Carnival Conquest. She was our wonderful home away from home during a romantic and memorable vacation together, and we will never forget the time we spent together aboard that beautiful ship.
Overall Cruise (A)